the stockbridge neighborhood has changed while i’ve been away. i could feel it in the air right away. and as time passes, and i dig deeper back into this community, i can see the more concrete evidence of it. these are signs of life; things that were not there a year ago:
- steeple-fest – a little street fair went on the other day for the west side (!). the police barricaded stocking avenue and there was a concert and food stands
- the bloom collective – a little lending library and “info shop” geared toward promoting radical social change
- 4th street garden oasis – a wee little community garden that’s getting everyone to participate in growing good food
- hands on hunger – a non-profit committed to stopping hunger in west michigan, and seeing this as a justice issue
- 4th street deli – located in a once decrepit and abandoned building across the tracks, now serving up hundreds of types of great sandwiches
- and there are other old buildings being revived and populated, and efforts/initiatives i’m sure i know nothing about
- and there are so many jesus followers moving into the neighborhood this fall, ourselves included.
there are moments when i worry that what is happening here is the dreaded “gentrification,” or that we’ll end up crowding out the very same poor and least that we are moving there to love and serve. are there too many of us, i wonder? are you concentrating our efforts in a way that ceases to be helpful? is this becoming super-saturated? are these new businesses and restored homes leaving little room for our lower-income neighbors to participate?
i think these are good questions and ones that i hope we’ll keep asking from time to time. because, for those of us who are moving into this place because we feel called to love the folks who lived here before we did, the goal really isn’t to crowd them out! it’s to encircle, embrace, include… to wrap them up in the kingdom. and if instead we chase people out, or disqualify them from participation in the new culture that our coming has created… then i think we’ve failed on some level.
BUT, i remind myself, we’d also be failing if after 5 years of laboring/living/loving in this place the poverty, the crime, and the grime remain unaltered. those things ought to disappear (darkness flees when light comes in), and this neighborhood ought to have a different spirit to it. but not because the people who originally lived here have all moved out. flower gardens, cooperation, wholesome food, reunited families, meeting jesus in the prayer garage, renovated homes, cultural events, and rising employment ought to follow in our train. but, these benefits are not only for us (the “missionaries” and the middle-class transplants), they are for our neighbors and friends who are still here, but who now walk in new life, who now belong to a family and participate in the kingdom.
that’s what’s on my heart this morning. 🙂